While organizing, developing and then finalizing my own course’s new conversation class materials (a shameless plug), I got to thinking about the reasons students should be taking them on a regular basis to further develop their language skills. Here are my 17 best core necessities for starting a conversation class right now.
Rehearsal For Real-life
Using a language is one of the keys to fluency. If you are learning a foreign language, opportunities to speak with natives can be hard to come by. This will definitely limit your exposure to using the language, and people tend to get demotivated. With conversation classes, you are guaranteed an opportunity to speak, to listen and to practice on a regular basis.
Proper pronunciation and accent reduction are keys to being understood. Remember that we are globalized now and not every language learner will have the same accent or level of English. Exposure to these accents will help you improve your listening skills. Learning and practicing the proper way to say a word, with coaching from your teacher and classmates will help to ensure that everyone will understand the words you are saying.
Controlled Error Correction
Mistakes will happen and they are essential to learning. They are just another opportunity to learn and improve. What better place to have your errors pointed out to you and fixed than in a controlled class where everyone can learn from each other’s mistakes?
Good grammar spawns from routine. It is habitual. The more you practice it, the easier it becomes and the more it becomes consequential. Conversely, bad grammar stems from bad habits and without correction it will continue for years. Conversation class will help break these bad habits and result in proper usage in a real-life environment.
Solidify Speaking Ability
Speaking with other learners at your level will demonstrate your ability to maintain conversation. When you realize your abilities at being a true user of the language, any stigma or fear of speaking in public will dissipate. This is important in the development and retention of learned skills. You must “feel” and realize your level of competence and proficiency through actual interaction.
Listening by watching movies, television, music and podcasts are great ways to maintain your skills; yet, they are one-way methods. To really increase your abilities to listen and comprehend, there is nothing like real-life conversation. It is a challenge to listen and process and at the same time form responses. This is active and dynamic interaction that can’t be reproduced by passive listening alone.
Think and Process Faster
Developing the ability to think in a new language is one of the most exciting thresholds to reach in language acquisition. Real-life, like time, waits for no-one. Achieving and maintaining the ability to process, as stated above, is what makes you a competent communicator.
For learners that haven’t used the language for a time, conversation is an easy and productive way to recycle what you knew in the past. By using class time to remember and reuse the language, words and phrases will come flooding back.
Now that you’ve acquired, or reacquired your language skills, time to reinforce and preserve them. Language knowledge without usage can go in just a year or two. By taking conversation for even 4 or 6 months, you can conserve the language that you have worked so hard at learning.
The variety of students in a conversation course is wonderful. Students have learned from other schools, countries and walks-of-life. The diversity of sources of vocabulary is immense. Procuring and learning new vocabulary in context, hearing the definition and usage from others is a great way to increase your own. Be sure to try it yourself and share with others too.
Conversation classes that build a community of learners and allow you to get to know each other help to rapidly build up your comfort level. The comfort to feel free to speak your mind and to “stretch your level” to try new ways of constructing the language should be encouraged. By trying new things, within a controlled class, you can become a more advanced user.
Diverse Subjects That Matter
A well designed course will offer a variety of diverse subject matters. Not only diverse content, but subjects that you need to be able to discuss in real-life. Role-playing situations, not artificial and superficial nonsense that is easy to answer with a simple yes or no. Check with your course to see what topics they will use in your classes.
Real World Language
Also, a well thought out course will use real language. Remember that the language learned from most books tend to shy away from slang and everyday language. Conversation class is a place where real informal language can come out, whether it be from the teacher or a student that has heard the expression. The differences between formal and informal should also be pointed out.
Making Points, Arguing and Questioning
All of these skills are needed by advanced speakers for travel, business, in marriage (oops) and life. This skills are often overlooked in regular courses but need professional classroom development too. Conversation classes can give you the opportunity to practice these important techniques of communication to make you more comfortable for real-life situations.
Sharing is so much more than just vocabulary. The sharing of ideas and how to express them, information sharing, sharing of opinions and how to debate them, sharing of feelings and emotions by the way you say things, and now, as with our international online classes, the sharing of culture, ethical and social differences. Conversation can be so much more than just a language class.
Finding Your Voice
Partaking in a conversation class gives you the opportunity to grow and evolve more. By taking chances and putting together your own words, you have a chance to develop your own voice. This is discovering and developing the way you speak in your native language and transforming these thoughts into your foreign language without the need to censor your ideas due to a lack of vocabulary. It is a wonderful outlet for building your voice.
Most of all, conversation classes can be fun. You get to know each other, laugh with each other – and sometimes at each other. And with fun comes learning, with learning comes fluency. If you’re not having fun, it’s not the right class for you.
So, don’t just think conversation is a one-time class you take to improve the language when you’re starting out. Think of it as your trip to a place where language is used, developed and nurtured. A comfortable place where your friends are. It’s always better learning with friends.
Rob Howard is the owner of Online Language Center. He is a teacher, tutor, trainer, material designer and author for English as a foreign language. He is also a consultant and has been a frequent speaker internationally regarding online retention as well as using technology in and out of the classroom. Originally from Boston, Massachusetts in the U.S., he is currently residing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.